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Hip hop
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Hip hop


Hip hop is a cultural movement that began amongst urban (primarily, but not entirely, African American) youth in New York and has since spread around the world. The four main elements of hip-hop are MCing, DJing, graffiti art, and breakdancing. Some consider beatboxing a fifth element of hip hop. Hip hop has since come to be a synonym for rap music to mainstream audiences. The two are not, however, interchangeable - rapping (MCing) is the vocal expression of lyrics in sync to a rhythm beneath it.

Table of contents
1 Hip hop music
2 Graffiti art
3 Breakdancing
4 Music Production

Hip hop music

U-Roy, one of the earliest Jamaican dub musicians
Hip hop music is related to the griots of West Africa, traveling singers and poets whose musical style is reminiscent of hip hop. Some griot traditions came with slavess to the New World. The most important direct influence on the creation of hip hop music is the Jamaican style called dub, which arose in the 1960s. Dub musicians such as King Tubby isolated percussion breaks because dancers at clubs (sound systems) preferred the energetic rhythms of the often-short breaks. Soon, performers began speaking in sync with these rhythms. In 1967, Jamaican immigrants such as DJ Kool Herc brought dub to New York City, where it evolved into hip hop. In Jamaica, dub music has diversified into genres like ragga and dancehall.

DJ Kool Herc
Herc was one of the most popular DJs in early 70s New York, playing at neighborhood parties (his first gig was on Sedgewick Avenue, Bronx) (block parties), and he quickly switched from using reggae records to funk, rock and disco, since the New York audience did not particularly like reggae. Herc and others DJs extended the percussive breaks using an audio mixer and two records, and other mixing techniques soon developed. Performers spoke while the music played; these were originally called MCs (Master of Ceremonies or Mic Controller) and, later, rappers. These early rappers focused on introducing themselves and others in the audience, with some improvisation and a simple four-count beat, along with a simple chorus. Later MCs added more complex lyrics, often humorous, and incorporated sexual themes. By the end of the 1970s, hip hop music was beginning to become a major commercial and artistic force and had spread throughout the United States. During the 1980s and 1990s, hip hop gradually became mainstream (a transition usually considered to have been completed in 1992) in the US and, to a lesser degree, worldwide.

Graffiti art

One of the earliest and most important graffiti crews was the Savage Seven (later, as they increased in number, the Black Spades), who included future old school rap star Afrika Bambaataa. The Black Spades were followed by many other crews and graffiti art arose to mark boundaries between them, among other purposes. Graffiti as an art had been known since at least the 1950s, but began developing in earnest in 1969 and flourished during the 1970s. Originality was very important for graffiti artists; for example, in 1972, one well-respected graffiti artist called Super Kool replaced the dispersion cap on his spray paint with a wider one, found on a can of oven cleaner. This is still a common practice. By 1976, graffiti artists like Lee Quinones began painting whole murals using advanced techniques. Some of the most memorable of Quinones' work was political in nature, calling for an end to the arms race, for example.


see Breakdancing

Music Production

The record producer is an often overlooked component of hip hop, sometimes confused with the DJ position. This is a misconception because not all DJs make beats, and not all producers can DJ. Although hip hop's original music consisted solely of the DJ's recycled breakbeats and other vinyl record pieces, the advent of the drum machine allowed hip hop musicians to develop partially original scores. Drum set sounds could be played either over the music from vinyl records or by themselves. The importance of quality drum sequences became the most important focus of hip hop musicians because these rhythms (beats) were the most danceable part. Consequently, drum machines were equipped to produce strong kick sounds with powerful (sine) bass behind them. This helped emulate the very well-engineered drum solos on old funk, soul and rock albums from the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s. Drum machines had a limited array of predetermined sounds, including hi-hats, snares, toms, and kick drums.

The introduction of the digital sampler changed the way hip hop was produced. A sampler can digitally record and save small sound clips from any output device, such as a turntable. Producers were able to sample their own drum sounds from the records they grew up listening to. Perhaps more importantly, they could sample horns, upright basses, guitars and pianos to play along with their drums. Hip hop had finally gathered its complete band.

What many fail to recognize is the distinct importance of the gritty, choppy sound of hip hop. The music seldom sounds like other organic forms. Even hip hop crews that have their own band often use samples and the gritty, choppy texture of machines to create their beats in the studio as featured on their album. (When performing live, they usually recreate this sound with a full band).

Beats are almost always in 4/4 time signature and almost always have a constant pattern of music throughout.

At its rhythmic core, hip hop swings. Instead of a straight 4/4 count (pop music; rock 'n' roll; etc.), hip hop is based on a triplet feel somewhat similar to the "swing" emphasis found in jazz beats. Hip hop takes this concept a step further, however. Whereas jazz swing implies three eighth notes (a triplet) per beat, hip hop implies six sixteenth notes (a "double triplet") per beat. Like the triplet emphasis in swing, hip hop's double triplet "bubble" is subtle, rarely written as it sounds (4/4 basic; the drummer adds the hip hop interpretation) and is often played in an almost "late" or laid back way.

Here's a basic hip hop drum set example --one bar that would be repeated indefinitely. Note that no single instrument plays all of the implied double triplets. This is usually the case. In this example, the bass drum plays part of the double triplet subdivision. The bass drum pattern is most often the part that provides the hip hop feel.

Count       1       2       3       4
Implied     *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Hi Hat x-- x-- x-- x-- x-- x-- x-- x-- Snare --- --- x-- --- --- --- x-- --- Bass Drum x-- --x --- --x x-- x-- --- --x

This style was innovated predominantly in soul and funk music, where beats and thematic music was repeated for the duration of tracks. In the 1960s and 1970s, James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, talked, sung and screamed much as MCs do today. This musical style provides the perfect platform for MCs to rhyme. Hip hop music generally caters to the MC for this reason, amplifying the importance of lyrical and delivering prowess.

Hip hop
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